The climate activist was convicted today in Ho Chin Minh City in a three hour long trial and was fined $4,100. She had been dodging an estimate of $275,000 in taxes related to her environmental campaign group called ‘CHANGE’ as stated by her lawyer, Nguyen Van Tu. “Hong pleaded guilty, and therefore the trial ended quickly,” Mr Tu said.
Who is the climate activist, Hoang Thi Minh Hong?
This 50 year old leading climate activist is the founder and executive director of ‘CHANGE’ which is an NGO that aims to address the country’s environmental situation and tackles climate change, pollution, wildlife trading and unethical climate degradation practices. Her organization was closely working with the World Bank, the UN and several US agencies on the matter of green energy. She is also the first woman in Vietnam to visit Antarctica on an expedition which highly contributed towards her dedication for climate change. As an activist, she has always been able to maintain a low profile rather than being an outspoken person.
In 2018, she was praised by the former US president Barack Obama for her significant contribution to make the world ‘greener’. She was also awarded a grant from the Obama Foundation Scholars Program at Columbia.
The trial proceedings of the climate activist-
The trial lasted three hours and resulted in Hong pleading guilty. No information has been published yet regarding her charges except the three years imprisonment. Human Rights Watch called on the Vietnamese Government on Wednesday to drop all the charges against her and release her without any condition.
Hong has expressed her remorse and requested the court for leniency at the trial so that she can continue to contribute towards the environment’s well-being and the society. Her husband stated that he was ‘disappointed’ at the verdict and declared that the sentence given was ‘too heavy’. Her organisation was also shut down last year after four environmental activists were arrested for tax evasion as well.
As per HRW’s reports, Vietnam has been holding at least 159 political prisoners and has also been detaining 22 others pending trial.
Fear of Climate Change in Vietnam-
With the formation of such ambiguous laws in the country, the government has chosen to interpret them in a rather harsh manner toward these climate change activists. This also proves to them running a targeted campaign against these environment advocates. This statement can be further solidified and proven with the recent arrest of Ngo Thi To Nhien, the executive director of the Vietnam Initiative for Energy Transition, two weeks ago.
These repressive practices against the climate activists appears to be contradictory as Vietnam also recently joined the ‘Just Energy Transition Partnership’, a groundbreaking initiative and becoming the third nation to do so. The country has pledged to reduce its heavy reliance on coal-generated electricity and transition to sustainable energy sources with the assistance of $15 billion in international financial aid funded by the United States, United Kingdom, Japan, Canada, and the European Union and some of its major member countries.